March in the cellar24 March 2020
“Vineyard and cellar – 1910” is a series of articles that we present to you throughout the year 2020, month by month. The articles are taken from the 1910 “Wine Trade Directory” and describe the various works necessary for the grapes and wine production at the beginning of the 20th century.
March in the cellar
In 1910 in March, the work in the cellar was marked by the continued racking of wines started in February, by the blending of wines, known at the time as “coupage des vins” and by bottling.
Here is what can be read in March in the Wine Trade Directory from 1910 :
“Racking – When spring is early, the first heat is felt in March. Then the ferments, numbed by the cold of winter at the bottom of the barrels, could, while going up in the wine, compromise its clarity and produce various alterations. Before this awakening of the fermentable elements contained in the deposits manifests, it is urgent to remove the liquids from their harmful influences. It should not be believed that the wine improves its color by an extended stay on its lees; it is a baseless prejudice, still prevalent in some countries. Numerous experiments have shown, on the contrary, that the wine not racked loses its strength and becomes more accessible to diseases: bitter, turns, sprouts, etc., the germs of which have been carried along by the lees.
It therefore becomes necessary to withdraw after the cold. The operation will be done in dry weather, away from contact with air and preferably with a pump, a siphon or a bellows.
When young wines are racked, it is essential to properly sanitize the containers intended to receive them. In general, sulfurous acid is used for this remediation, the oldest and most widespread mode of production of which is the combustion of the sulfur wick. When it comes to lightnings and not just barrels, it is better to use sulfur in bread or barrel that is burned in bowls or cups, after having unclogged the vessel at the top and bottom to provide ventilation and facilitate the combustion of sulfur.
Coupage des vins – The coupages, which are preferably done in March, aim to compose a set always similar to itself, with body, color, a clean and frank taste, with products which separately could not not please the consumer. Thus the merchant combines, for example, low alcohol products with others in higher degrees, a too acidic green wine with a wine lacking in freshness, which alone would appear bland and soft. The wines are mixed by pouring into a single container the quantities determined in advance, they are successively introduced into the vats or equalization tanks, while the mixture is made homogeneous by vigorous stirring. This result obtained, it is drawn off and glued or filtered. To protect the coupages from any alteration, pasteurization is frequently carried out.
Bottling – March is also, par excellence, the month for bottling because then there has not yet been any movement in fermentation in liquids. The wine must have been carefully glued and then racked. ”
Nowadays in March
“coupage des vins” is called “blending”. Blending, as opposed to “plot” cuvées, is the art of mixing several vats of wine or several different batches from the same vintage to create the final wine. The blends concern several different plots or several grape varieties (example: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot). Each wine will then bring its aromas and taste characteristics to the blend, thus improving its complexity.
Since the creation of appellations of origin for wines (but I think it was done before the creation of AOCs and that AOCs were precisely based on what was already done in the different regions), the blending of grape varieties are not done by chance: they must follow the rules established by the specifications of the appellations established by the INAO (National Institute of Origin and Quality) to claim these so-called appellations.
The blending of different vintages is only authorized for Champagne wines. Indeed, in order to perpetuate the style of the house and perpetuate their brands, Champagne winegrowers can mix wines from previous vintages, called “reserve wines”, with the wine of the year.